The Yankees looked better this weekend against the Cubs than they did against the Reds of the Tigers, but they couldn't outplay their mistakes and they dropped two of three in Chicago. In what proved to be a memorable series, the most egregious error came on Saturday afternoon when Joe Torre lifted Roger Clemens in the 7th inning of a 1-0 game, and replaced him with Juan Acevado, who promptly served up a three-run dinger to Eric Karros. Clemens bid for 300 was lost again, and although the Yankees had their chances late, they couldn't mount a rally to win.
I watched the game with my girlfriend Emily, and after Acevado gave up the dinger, it was as if someone had punched us in the stomach. (We were already quesy after the freak injury sustained by Cubbie first baseman Hee Seo Choi.) I'm not big on second-guessing, but it was unavoidable here. Joe Torre and Mel Stottlemyre gave a lot of lip service to a respitory infection that Clemens struggling with, but as far as I'm concerned Clemens was still effective, and Rocket at 65%-70% is prefereable to Acevado at 110%.
According to the Times:
"Roger never wants to come out of a game, but when you see him every time he pitches, you pretty much make an evaluation on what you see," Torre said.
Torre saw a pitcher who was wavering. The walk to Alou was Clemens's first of the game, but Torre said, "It just looked like he was forcing it." So Torre pulled him for Acevedo, a pitcher whose 7.83 earned run average was about to get worse.
Clemens did not speak to reporters after the game, issuing a brief statement that said: "Everything considered, I felt good. I went long and hard the whole way. It just didn't work out."
Some of the Cubs were surprised to see Clemens leave. "I was," third baseman Lenny Harris said, "especially for a guy who was going for 300 and shutting us down the way he was. He got it past Sammy at 98, and his breaking ball was great. He just dominated us."
Em and I were dumbstuck, and we weren't alone. Here is an e-mail I received from Harley, a loyal Bronx Banter reader:
I don't get it. Given that every Yankee fan in the known universe knew that Acevedo was going to give it up -- maybe not that quickly, or that definitively -- how did this escape Joe Torre's attention? Clemens hadn't even hit 85 pitches yet, he's throwing 94 mph fastballs, and the rookie umpire might've cost him the walk....and Acevedo is the best option? (Conspiracy theory: Joe sends a message to Steinbrenner for dropping Jason Anderson in order to stick Sierra on the bench.) Why not Weaver? Why not Hammond? (Despite Buck's inane suggestion that the Yanks don't have a match-up lefty who can pitch to right handers like Remlinger.) Or -- and Bill James just threw his
beer at the TV set -- why not break with inexplicable tradition and bring in your best reliever when it matters most (that would be Rivera, and I know no one does that, but if there was ever a situation that made James' argument, that was it).
Medical alert: Yes, Clemens was coughing, and he's been sick, and maybe he asked out -- this would be the second infamous 'ask-out' for Roger -- but I just don't buy it.
Oh well. At least when Steinbrenner fires Joe, we'll know why.
Cheers in anger....HARLEY
Acevado was the goat again last night, as he made a throwing error which lead to two Cub runs---Alfonso Soriano made an error on the play as well--and hurt the Yankees come-from-behind charge. If you told me that the Yanks were going to score seven runs in a game which Mark Prior started, I would think they would have a good chance at coming away with a "w." Pinch runner Chales Gipson---representing the tying run---was picked off of first to end the game, and the Yankees lost 8-7. The Bombers are now 0-20 when trailing after six innings, and they ended the nine-game road trip 4-5. The Yanks were a half a game out of first when the trip began, and they trail the Red Sox by a half a game this morning.
It doesn't get easier this week, as the Yanks host the first-place Astros (and get Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller), and then the St. Louis Cardinals at the Stadium. My friend Mindy is taking me to Friday night's game, as part of a birthday present. We are going to honor the return of Tino Martinez, but if everything goes according to plan, Clemens is scheduled to start that night, which could be a treat indeed. Rocket needs four strikeouts to reach 4,000 for his career.
Boss Steinbrenner will be in the house. Expect Charles Gipson and Juan Acevado to be relieved of their pinstripes sometimes soon.
David Wells pitched a good game on Friday afternoon, and Mariano Rivera escaped a ninth inning jam to give the Yanks a 5-3 win. Jason Giambi continued his hot hitting over the weekend, though Derek Jeter struggled.
Excuse me if I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but the Yankees have simply not been able to out-run their weakness: the bullpen and their defense.